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Stephen Goldstein: Medical marijuana patient describes pain, benefits, struggles

“Daniel” wouldn’t hesitate to tell you his real name. Protecting him is my call. Until and unless Florida voters approve Constitutional Amendment 2 on Nov. 4, marijuana is still illegal in the state.

Who knows who might come after him for something he alleges here? In addition to the chronic physical pain he suffers, he lost his job over his use of marijuana for his medical condition. No need to add to it. Until election day, he’s doing his best to make the case for passing Amendment 2.

Q: Describe the condition for which you take marijuana and what kind of pain you are in.

A: I am a patient who uses medical cannabis to alleviate the chronic back, rib, and hip pain that comes from having skeletal dysplasia or dwarfism. I was also one of the first generation of dwarfs who had corrective surgeries from infancy through adulthood. The surgeries themselves can also be a source of my pain. I suffer from constant muscle tightness and frequently occurring, burning pain. When my pain is its most intense, I curl up in a fetal position, hyperventilate and cry. Smoked cannabis can bring my pain down from a 10 or an 11 to a 4 or a 5 in minutes!

Q: How has smoking marijuana helped you, compared with non-prescription or prescription drugs?

A: I have tried Tylenol, Neurontin, Celebrex, Percoset, Oxycontin, Zanax, Zoloft, Vioxx, Ibuprofin, and Oxycodone. Most of these medications were either ineffective or caused intolerable side effects, like acid reflux, chemical hepatitis, or stomach damage. I do have to resort to Oxycontin mostly during the night, but cannabis allows me to keep my use of narcotics to a minimum, which is important over the long term when a patient’s condition is chronic like mine. Also the speed with which medical cannabis takes effect allows me to more precisely take just the amount I need to manage my symptoms.

Q: Why do you think Florida voters should pass Amendment 2, legalizing marijuana for medical purposes on November 4?

A: Because it works for so many people! Medical cannabis provides a non-narcotic, organic herbal relief for pain from a variety of ailments including arthritis, MS, ALS, AIDS. It also relieves nausea and wasting disease, and reduces the eye pressure that comes with glaucoma.

 It would also provide safe, legal access to medical cannabis so that scientists, physicians, universities and private firms can engage in proper studies to identify other benefits and uses it may have.

And finally, Floridians believe that medicine should be determined by their doctor and not by politicians, courts and police.

Q: Why do you think some people are against legalizing marijuana for medical purposes?

 A: They believe that medical cannabis legalization is really a pretext to legalize recreational marijuana. But the goal of everyone I have met who is campaigning to pass this amendment is not to legalize recreational weed. In fact, most of them are flat out against recreational marijuana.

The anti-medical cannabis folks also state that they are afraid kids will be able to get it without their parents’ knowledge or permission. But a parent or guardian must always consent to treatment for patients who are minors. One of the activists on their side actually stated back in the ’80’s that smoking cannabis causes AIDS!

The Florida Sheriff’s Association is primarily against the amendment because sheriffs, police departments, the judicial system, and the privately run prison system all benefit greatly from the status quo. Law enforcement gets to keep what they confiscate during arrests and investigations. They also benefit from civil forfeiture laws that allow them to take property from those who haven’t even been convicted. They can also justify generous state and federal funding for their departments through enforcement of our drug laws. Some rural departments are almost entirely dependent on these drug-war budget supports and property confiscations.

The judicial system has gotten used to the revenue generated from fines and court costs levied on patients who use medical cannabis. Rehab programs benefit from court-ordered rehabilitation, and prison companies profit from more laws and criminal penalties on the books because more violators mean more bodies in their prisons and more patients in their rehab clinics. Lab companies benefit from employment drug testing programs.

Q: How do others you know say smoking marijuana helps them?

A: The people I have met are real patients suffering from debilitating conditions like ALS, MS, and spinal cord injuries. Some of them would be on disability, institutionalized, or dead without marijuana. Because of it, they can work and raise their children.

Others like the CannaMoms are care-givers of children, who need safe access to cannabis to stop their babies from having brain injuring, often fatal, seizures.”

Q: Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you want to say?

A: I became involved in the campaign because I have seen how the fear of legal penalties can hurt families. I want our state’s employment protection laws and our divorce and child custody laws to change with the new reality of medical cannabis. That way, patients can focus on treating their condition and not worry about losing their job, their children, or their freedom.

Stephen L. Goldstein is the author of “The Dictionary of American Political Bullshit” and “Atlas Drugged: Ayn Rand Be Damned.” He lives in Fort Lauderdale. Column courtesy of Context Florida.


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